Prison inmates would consider six months at home an easy stretch, but draft resister David Wayte says it’s harder than it sounds.
“It’s not an easy sentence,” said Wayte, 25, who hasn’t been allowed beyond the yard around his grandmother’s yellow stucco house in Whittier since Sept. 10. “The psychological aspect is the most difficult; the idea of being a prisoner in my own home.”
Wayte’s six-month house arrest was imposed by U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter after he was convicted of refusing to register with the Selective Service. The draft ended in 1972, but President Jimmy Carter reimposed registration in 1980 after Soviet troops entered Afghanistan. No one has been called to serve, however.
Wayte, a former Yale University philosophy student, had faced up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“I expected to get some kind of prison term,” said Wayte, sitting in a patio chair by a backyard swimming pool.
He requested a sentence of community service, but Hatter instead imposed house arrest.
“He felt community service was what I enjoyed doing and what I asked to do for my sentence, so he punished me,” said Wayte, who was a teacher’s aide at a school for developmentally disabled adults when he was sentenced.
“I didn’t know whether to feel relieved because I wasn’t going to prison or to feel dread about this highly unusual sentence. It was something I hadn’t thought about,” Wayte said.
The tall, sandy-haired Wayte says he rises at 6 a.m., writes in his journal and does housework before reading for five to six hours each day.
“There are restaurants I miss. I miss Pasadena (where he was raised and worked) and going to the movies and taking walks. I miss the people I worked with,” said Wayte. A federal probation officer visits him once a week and also telephones to make sure he stays home.
Wayte lives in the house 15 miles east of Los Angeles with his wife, Jacqui Holt, and his grandmother, a stroke victim under the care of two nurses. He and his wife, who works at a nearby vitamin store, plan to take a trip once his sentence ends March 9.
Wayte continues to work with the National Resistance Committee, an anti-draft group in San Francisco, and the Selective Service Law Panel in Los Angeles.
“I talk to people about my experience,” he said. He also writes articles but says he “wouldn’t do anything to call a great deal of attention to myself.”
Wayte said he decided to resist draft registration after receiving a warning letter from the government in the summer of 1980.
“I felt registration would lead to the draft and another Vietnam-type war,” said Wayte. He sent letters to the White House and the Selective Service calling attention to his action.
“I wanted to take responsibility for my decision by making a public statement rather than avoid the threat of prosecution,” he said.
When he was indicted, he fought the charge, arguing that prosecutors targeted him because of his vocal opposition.
In November, 1982, Hatter ruled that the government violated Wayte’s free-speech rights by prosecuting only visible draft resisters. But the ruling was reversed on appeal, and in March, 1985, the Supreme Court concurred. Wayte then pleaded guilty to one count of refusing to register.
Wayte, noting that he knows many quiet, unprosecuted draft resisters, said: “I think non-registration has had an effect, but not as encompassing an effect as I had imagined. We probably slowed down the return to the draft, but didn’t wipe it out.”
He said he’ll continue anti-draft activities and “look for a job where I can help people” after his sentence is completed.
“I’ll continue to speak out for peace and against the draft and follow my principles,” Wayte said. “Refusing to register has been a major influence in my life. It’s put me through a lot of experiences I would never have had. It’s made me a stronger person.”